A good old-fashioned butt kicking

March 21, 2007

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets each stepped on the Nationwide Arena ice last night looking to take a step out of the Central Division basement.  Tied at 63 points coming in, both teams were looking to use their eighth and final meeting of the season to keep them from falling to the bottom of the conference.

In the end, the Jackets received strong performances from Fredrik Modin (2 goals) and Fredrik Norrena (22 saves on 24 shots) to send Chicago away tucking it’s tail after suffering a 5-2 drubbing in front of 15,195 fans hungry for a win.  Having not seen a home game since March 9th and no home goals in nearly two weeks, Jacket fans slid their trays down the buffet line last night.  Gilbert Brule, Modin (x2), Derrick Walser (1st of season), and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (1st of career) all hit the back of the net for Columbus, while Rene Bourque and Patrick Sharp scored for Chicago.

Columbus, continuing to play with a decimated blueline, held the Hawks to 24 shots on goal and in general gave goaltender Freddy Norrena good looks at the puck.  The overall picture I’d paint for this game would be that of hard work producing results.  Of particular note would be the second scoring line of Modin, David Vyborny, and Alexander Svitov.  Earning a combined +4 rating and 2 goals and 3 assists on 7 shots, these three played sound defense while pressuring the Blackhawks in their own end.

With the next three games (and six of their remaining nine) against division opponents, there are some remaining opportunities to improve the poor (8-14-4) record against the Central.

Of note:  In his 32nd NHL game, Alexandre Picard finally notched his first point when he assisted on Tollefsen’s goal in the third.  In other Picard news, a few minutes into the second period, he registered all three of his credited hits in a 0:15 window.  He was flying around on the forecheck, hitting anything that wore white.  He drew the ire of Tony Salmelainen in the form of a cross checking penalty.  After the whistle blew, a little scuffle ensued.  On one hand, I was a little disappointed that Picard got into it with Brent Seabrook for coincidental roughing minors.  But on the other, despite being a relative “nobody” the Blackhawks, he stood up for himself and his team and set the tone that Chicago was not getting out of Nationwide without a fight.

Last night was the first hockey game I’ve watched from start to finish in quite a while.  It was good for a change, and I hope the Blue Jackets continue to put forth a good effort the rest of the season and don’t tank for a higher draft pick.  These next few weeks of hockey in Columbus will shape how fans feel going into the offseason.  There are some big hockey events going on in central Ohio this summer (like, maybe an Entry Draft?), and it would be good for the locals to be somewhat excited about the sport when the NHL comes to town.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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